The “rust” in “Rust Belt” refers to the economic decline, urban decay, and population loss of a region or city due to their shrinking of its once-powerful industrial sector. It implies that the area has turned to rust. “Rust belt” is the term for the Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the U.S. that experienced industrial decline around 1980. It roughly covers Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, as well as states in New England.
The deindustrialization of this region, and around the United States, is due to automation, the transfer of manufacturing overseas, and the decline of the U.S. coal and steel industries. The New England region was especially hit hard during this era, once known as the industrial heartland of America. Some cities managed to adapt their industries to the change, shifting their focus to high-tech industries; however, those who have not continue to face an overall decline in industry, population loss from out-migration, unemployment, and
One of the most well known Rust Belt cities is Detroit, Michigan. Detroit was once the fourth-most-populated city in the United States. At its peak, it has 1.8 million residents, which has fallen to 673,000 in 2018. The once-booming automotive industry began declining during the 1960s, and Detroit has seen a decline in its population every year for the past half-century.
Other large Rust Belt cities are:
Several former Rust Belt cities have diversified their industries to help improve their economies, such as transitioning to “service and information” economies. By shifting to innovation-based economies, former Rush Belt cities have the possibility of not only boosting their economies but also seeing their first increase in population in years. Some of these former cities that have successfully made a change include Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, for example, was once known as the “Steel City” and has now transitioned its economy to healthcare, education, and tech.